The rising cost of straw and its shortage even in the Borders means many beef producers are looking at alternatives say experts.
SAC Consulting have organised a free farm tour in Berwickshire to look at straw-free housing options, visiting sheds with slatted floors or cubicles on Thursday, January 30.
SAC Consulting’s St Boswells-based senior consultant Donald Dunbar said: “With baled straw costing £60/ton before haulage it’s a lot of money to pay for something animals are going to dung on.”
The aim of the event is to give livestock farmers an opportunity to consider if changing the type of sheds they use is an option for their business.
Straw-bedded cattle courts were the norm along the east coast, said Mr Dunbar, but increasingly the cereals by-product is being used as animal feed, chopped up to be a soil conditioner, used to protect carrots from frost during the winter or sold for higher prices to farmers in the west. And latterly prices were pushed up too because of wet harvests.
“Out wintering cattle may be an option for some with suitable ground, but sheds with slatted floors or cubicles are alternatives that don’t require straw, with animal waste either removed by automated scrapers or trampled through the slats to a below-ground slurry store, “ said Mr Dunbar.
Concrete slatted sheds for livestock date back to the late 1970s.
Mr Dunbar said: “The design of these sheds has greatly improved over the years with steel portal framed sheds providing light and airy environments.
“Mat coverings are also now available for both slats and cubicles to provide a higher level of comfort and animal welfare.”
The tour in the Duns area will begin at 10.00 am at Langtonlees where the Macvie family have put up a modern slatted shed for a specialist beef unit.
The farm is also home to the Duns Motocross Track, owned and run by Chris and David Macvie.
The group will move on to finish by 2.00pm at nearby Kelloe Mains, a modern dairy farm run the McDonald family, which has cubicle facilities that could be used for beef cows.
There will also be discussion about waste storage and how improved waste management can help address concerns over emissions and diffuse pollution.
Mr Dunbar added: “Each of the host farmers has a good story to tell and they are happy to relate the practical experience they have gained.”
SAC Consulting describes itself as an independent ‘knowledge transfer’ company “taking outputs from our own and others’ research programmes and reworking them into understandable and practical solutions to match our customer requirements.”
The event has been part-funded by the Scottish Government as part of its Public Good Veterinary and Advisory Services. Lunch at Kelloe Mains has been sponsored by Comfort Slat Mat and to help with catering arrangements anyone planning to attend should book a place by calling SAC Consulting Office at St Boswells on 01835 823322.